Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kickstart My Heart

Lately I have been getting slower, much slower. Most of this I had attributed to the hot summer we have been having here in the desert with a smattering being that I've been weighing in at more than 10 pounds heaver than I would like to be. As the weather has started to cool, I have not seen any improvement in my runs which are actually becoming more of a chore.

Some of this could be from overt training but I don't think I've ramped up too much and had cut back on the added XT I was doing in the morning. I've been good about getting to bed early and eating right but something still isn't working.

A couple weeks back on the Kinetic Revolution website, James posted a video with Mark Allen discussing the importance of building an aerobic base through heart rate training. [For those of you who don't know, Mark Allen is a 6-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion]. Having heard a lot mentions about HR training on the interwebz and having just purchased a Garmin watch with HR strap, I enlisted Google to tell me more.

I'll tell you right now that there is tons of info about HR training but for the most part all roads lead back to Dr Phil Maffetone who is not only one of the pioneers in this training method (known as the Maffetone Method) but also coached Mark Allen and may other elite athletes.

On finding out about this I also discovered that Dr Maffetone had many books on the subject and has just recently published a new book, 1:59: The Sub-Two-Hour Marathon Is Within Reach—Here’s How It Will Go Down, and What It Can Teach All Runners about Training and Racing, which is a great instruction to his method and how any runner can get faster.

So armed with this new knowledge I hit the road. 

Now, conventional wisdom to determining one's HR zones is to subtract one's age from 220 but with the Maffetone Method you use the 180 Formula which starts with a much lower base rate of 180 as Dr Maffetone explains.
As I began lecturing and writing more about endurance training, it was difficult to explain the details of all this information on assessment without some simple and specific guidelines. The idea of a formula that would be accurate for an individual and result in a very similar or identical heart rate as my manual assessments seemed ideal. While the 220 Formula was commonly used, the number I found to be ideal in my assessment was often very different from the 220 Formula; it was usually significantly lower. In addition, it was becoming evident that athletes who used the 220 Formula for a daily training heart rate showed poor gait, increased muscle imbalance, and other problems following a workout at that heart rate, and that these athletes were more often over trained.

Over time, I began piecing together a mathematical formula, taking the optimal heart rates in athletes who had previously been assessed as a guide. Instead of 220 minus the chronological age multiplied by some percentage, I used 180 minus a person’s chronological age, which is then adjusted to reflect their physiological age as indicated by fitness and health factors.

By comparing the new 180 Formula with my relatively lengthy process of one-on-one evaluations, it became clear that this new formula matched very well—in other words, my tedious assessment of an athlete and the 180 Formula resulted in a number that was the same or very close in most cases.
Using his formula I need to maintain 127 bpm or lower (180-48-5) which it turns out is nothing more than a slow jog given my aerobic base (or lack of). Where I had previously been doing my long runs in the 9:30-10:30 range, albeit struggling toward the end, I was starting in the mid 11's and got up to 13.

Yes it was much slow than I'm used to but the splits were right on. In the initial phase of training each successive mile should be slower as the amount of effort required increase as the run progresses. Typically a runner will push harder to maintain pace which in turn raises HR but with the Maffetone Method pace is not a factor. You do need to check your ego at the door. (Last mile is faster because I always want to finish strong and kick the last half mile).

Here's the thing, there was no bonk or hurt. I was actually set for 9 today but felt really good and it was a beautiful morning so I decided to add a couple more.

Being all in to this method, with the exception of the races I have coming up, I've revamped my training to only consist of MHR sessions. It will actually mean some extra miles since I'm substituting an additional run day for a cardio day but they will be slow, easy miles.

As counter-intuitive as it seems, by running slower and conditioning my body to burn the abundant fat stores that we all have, I will get faster while still maintaining the lower HR to do so. At least that's the plan.

I'll let you know how it turns out.


  1. Very interesting information. I'm sure it has been a learning process & kind of messes with your head some. The run/walk method messed with my head big time but in the end it helped me schieve my goal. Doesn't hurt to try something new.

    1. It sure does, there is nothing harder for me than going slow when I want to go fast. I really needed to shake things up and I love that it is a more holistic method that is based in actual science.

      Congrats on your BQ and be great in Boston.